The Ocean City High School girls swimming team has set records all season, and the Red Raiders will get two last chances this weekend.
The Ocean City girls and other swimmers from Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties will compete at the two-day State Individual Swimming Championships at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Sewell in Deptford Township. The event is commonly called the Meet of Champions.
The girls qualifying heats begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at GCIT's eight-lane, 25-yard pool, and the boys qualifying heats are set for 2 p.m.
Sunday's state championship finals and consolation finals will be at the same times, 10 a.m. for girls and 2 p.m. for boys.
The events will include the standard 11 races in high school swimming. Most of the best high school swimmers from throughout the state will be there.
O.C. freshman Amanda Nunan is seeded first in the girls 500-yard freestyle and second in the 200 freestyle. That means that her best time of the year in the 500, 4 minutes, 50.66 seconds, is best in the state this season. Nunan's best time in the 200 freestyle, 1:50.43, is second best, behind only to a 1:50.29 by Haddonfield's Sophie Fontaine.
"I've seen the (seedings), and I'm pretty excited," said Nunan, a 15-year-old Ocean City resident. "I've been training pretty hard, and I'm hoping for the best. I'm just going to try my best. I like the 500 better because I like longer races."
Also top-seeded is the Ocean City 200 freestyle relay team of Aly Chain, Gabby Breazeale, Nunan and Noel Styer. The team's seed time of 1:38.12. Styer also is seeded fourth in the 50 freestyle (23.77 seconds), and teammate Amber Glenn is fifth in the 500 freestyle (4:59.89).
Ocean City went 14-1 during the season, losing only to Chatham 99-71 in the state Public B final Sunday at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township. The Red Raiders set and reset numerous school records this year, won the program's first South Jersey title and reached their first state final.
The O.C. girls team has never won a title at the Meet of Champions.
"I definitely believe we can swim as fast as we did during the season," Ocean City coach Kate Merz, a former Holy Spirit standout, said. "The girls will all go in and swim their best, and that's all you can ask for. As a swimmer, the Meet of Champions is a fun meet and a chance to better your time and make the finals, and set school records. It's also a chance to represent swimming in South Jersey."
The swimmers with the eight fastest times in each of the events in Saturday's qualifying heats advance to Sunday's state championship finals. The ninth-to-16th fastest in each event in today's qualifying will go in Sunday's consolation finals. In relays, the 17th-to-24 fastest teams advance to the second consolation finals.
Many individuals and teams set school records at the Meet of Champions. Often, the records are broken the first day and broken again the second day.
The Vineland boys 200 freestyle relay team finished second to Pingry School in the final last year, after the Fighting Clan was seeded seventh. Eddie Parks, Johnny Malatesta and Mark Novatorskiy return from that Fighting Clan team, and Vineland is again seeded seventh. Dominic Merighi is this year's fourth member of the team.
"Our training went well, and we're going after it," said junior Parks, a 17-year-old Vineland resident. "Everyone has trained hard since our last dual meet (a 104-66 loss to Cherry Hill East on Feb. 10)."
Ocean City is also seeded 10th in the girls 400 freestyle relay.
The St. Augustine Prep boys team is seeded ninth in the 200 medley relay. Colin McHugh of the Prep is seeded sixth in the 100 breaststroke. Mainland Regional's Nolan Coyle is ninth in the 200 freestyle. Prep's Matt Taccard is seeded ninth in both the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. Lacey Township's Ben Smith is 10th in the 100 butterfly.
Contact Guy Gargan: